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Has Bill Guerin handcuffed the Wild at the trade deadline?

Bill Guerin's decision to lock in the Wild's veterans are proving to be costly.

After dropping critical games to the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues this week, the Minnesota Wild sit eight points behind the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators for the two coveted wild card spots in the Western Conference playoff race. 

With 20 games remaining, the chances of a run to the playoffs are fading and could create a perfect selling opportunity for general manager Bill Guerin at the trade deadline, which hits at 2 p.m. CT on Friday. 

Unfortunately, a lot of the pieces that could be moved aren't eligible thanks to a series of decisions over the past calendar year. What could have been an opportunity to take a step back and reload has wound up handcuffing the team and its ramifications could be felt even after the trade deadline has passed.

The current state of the roster could be summed up with the phrase "No Move Clause." Those three words have been littered throughout recent contracts to aging veterans and were meant to create stability as the Wild navigated the toughest years of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts.

While Guerin appeared used them as a mechanism to get contracts done, it also limited his options at the deadline. 

Frederick Gaudreau signed a five-year, $10.5 million contract with the Wild last April after becoming one of Minnesota's top penalty killers and recording 82 points (33 goals, 49 assists) over 156 games in his first two seasons. 

The first year of the extension has seen the 30-year-old battle through injuries, record 12 points (4 G, 8 A) and a -17 plus/minus rating through 48 games. The season The Athletic valuing Gaudreau at $800,000 on the market and creating a -$1.3 million deficit compared to his $2.1 million salary.

Because of Gaudreau's season, the Wild wouldn't be selling high. But he would at least be a trade candidate to make room for prized prospect Marat Khusnutdinov, who signed his entry-level contract earlier last week and is expected to join the Wild soon. 

Unfortunately, Gaudreau's contract carries a 15-team no-move clause, which virtually guarantees he'll stay in Minnesota past the deadline and until his contract expires after the 2027-28 season.

The outlook is just as grim with Marcus Johansson. Johansson was rewarded with a two-year, $4 million contract with a full no-trade clause after recording 18 points (6 G, 12 A) in 20 games last season but he has just 27 points (9 G, 18 A) and a -13 plus/minus rating in 61 games.

The Athletic has a more favorable view of Johansson with a $0.6 million surplus and head coach John Hynes said Johansson has "been pretty effective for us" back on Feb. 17. But the 33-year-old is averaging 17 minutes of ice time per game over the last 16 contests before leaving Saturday's loss to the Blues with an injury. In those 16 games, Johansson has just three goals and two assists.

The extensions kept coming in the weeks leading up to the season when Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman and Marcus Foligno signed multi-year deals – complete with no movement clauses.

Zuccarello signed a two-year, $8.25 million contract extension after posting 146 points (46 G, 100 A) in 148 games and has 50 points over 52 games this season. But his game has taken a step back, ranking below the 50th percentile among forwards in speed bursts over 20 mph (26), top shot speed (86.46 mph) and shooting percentage (8.6%) this season according to NHL Edge.

With no-move and no-trade clauses, the 36-year-old Zuccarello is locked in through the 2025-26 season.

Foligno has had a solid season for the Wild after signing a four-year, $16 million contract extension before the start of the season. With 20 points in 47 games, Foligno has returned a $0.9 million surplus on his $3.1 million salary for this season but that number goes up to $4 million next year.

Either way, Foligno's current numbers don't match up to his breakout 2021-22 season with 42 points (23 G, 19 A) in 74 games and he'll turn 33 in August.

Foligno's contract carries a full no-move clause through the 2025-26 season and a 15-team no-trade clause in the final two years of his deal.

But there's more. Hartman, Patrick Maroon, Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Alex Goligoski and Marc-Andre Fleury all have some sort of no-move or no-trade clause attached to their contract, leaving the Wild with few options at the deadline.

The Wild could trade pending restricted free agents Connor Dewar and Brandon Duhaime or Jon Merrill at the deadline but none of those players would return someone that could get Minnesota back into the playoff race or a future asset. One glimmer of hope might be a report last week that suggested the Wild could get a "haul" for Duhaime, but that's just one report in a sea of a gazillion rumors. 

Minnesota could also shop goaltender Filip Gustavsson at the deadline but his newly signed three-year contract and his .893 save percentage aren't likely to bring a high return.

Plenty of key injuries and the self-inflicted salary cap issues have forced the Wild to take a step back this season and Guerin made the issues worse by locking in the core of a team that hasn't been good enough to occupy a playoff spot. 

It makes anything the Wild can do ahead of Friday's trade deadline seem marginal and keeps Minnesota away from being a serious playoff contender in 2024 – and maybe longer.